Care Deeply—But Don’t Prioritize People Who Couldn’t Care Less

📷: Allef Vinicius

Let’s get one thing straight right now. There is an absolute difference between caring and people pleasing, between having a big heart and being a pushover.

You can care, but don’t lose yourself in the process.
You can love, but don’t forget what you need.
You can be there, but not for people who won’t be in return.
You can be selfless, but don’t be foolish.

I understand where you’re coming from. Believe me, my entire life has been built around my emotions. Every single day I’m pouring them out on the page. Every single day is an exercise in unraveling the pieces of myself so that I can articulate them in a way that (hopefully) relates to someone else.

I feel everything deeply, from the physical pain of stubbing my toe, to heartbreak, to the gut-wrenching sadness of a baby bird fallen from her next. Anything I encounter affects me. And for the longest time I hated that about myself. I longed to pull away and guard my heart, but I ended up only hurting myself in the process.

Now I welcome my emotions with open arms. I love knowing that I have a heart that beats wildly for the things and people I care about. I love knowing that the people in my life are encouraged by my affection, and that I’m someone they can depend on. I love being a person who can share her emotions with the world and connect with others in difficult places.

My big heart has blessed me.

But the one thing I’ve learned in this journey of self-love is that people won’t always be on the same page. If you’re a big-hearted person, you might be mistaken for weak. You may be treated as if you’re ‘too much,’ or worse, you might be taken advantage of.

But you can’t those negatives take over the goodness that’s within your soul.

There is nothing wrong with being an emotional person, with being someone who cares, who loves, who shows up. There is nothing wrong with running to a friend when he or she is struggling, or putting aside your own needs to stand beside the person you love.

There is nothing wrong with fighting for a relationship when the road gets tough (a healthy one, that is). There is nothing wrong with showing forgiveness and grace, with pouring your heart out or taking a chance on a person you have feelings for.

But there is a definite difference between these beautiful, vulnerable things and being a people-pleaser. There is a definite difference between caring, and losing yourself. And if you find yourself bending over backwards for people who would never do the same, if you find yourself running in circles just to try to be on someone’s ‘good side’ or hold their attention—stop. For you are not being appreciated, but taken advantage of.

Caring for people is not wrong; it’s when we stop caring for ourselves that hurts us. We can love with all we have, but we must value ourselves, too, and even more so.

We can be selfless in our actions, but not self-sacrificing. We can give, but we must receive, too. We can outpour, but not for the people who simply take and walk away.

You do not have to live on either side of the spectrum—either selfish or selfless—you can exist somewhere in the middle. You can give, but still value yourself enough to know when to walk away; you can care, but still keep yourself a priority.

Stop thinking your worth is dependent upon how much you give.

Because a big heart is not measured quantitatively. Your love is apparent, not something you have to prove. So stop trying to be what everyone wants you to be and let your heart flow freely. Stop trying to attend to every whine and whim of someone in your life and identify whether the relationship is healthy or toxic. Stop thinking you will lessen in value if you don’t do everything a person asks of you.

Start realizing that who you are shouldn’t be, and won’t ever be measured by what you can do for someone, but who you inherently are.

And the way you love and care and show up—that’s more than enough.